Bienvenidos, my friends. This is part three of our little mini-series based around the Fun Index, a series I describe as the quest to find the entertainment level of every Rockies game in 2021. We went over June and July last week, and the results were excellent: They both averaged a score above 6/10, a terrific number over a sample of about 50 games, and there were some truly fun stretches of baseball. This time, we’re going to close out the season with the final three months, but don’t think this is the final edition of the Fun Index: next week we’ll be doing a summary of the 2021 season as a whole using the Index, and we’ll take a look at some trends, some details, and more. Now, if you’ve already read one of these Fun Index pieces before, you can skip the explanation, but I’m still going to put it out there just in case.
What Is The Fun Index?
The Fun Index is a tool that attempts to measure how fun a baseball game was to watch as a spectator. Keep in mind, of course, that it’s meant to be a neutral tool. You could assign a bonus for a team win or a deduction for a team loss, but that’s not as fun, in my opinion. Anyway, here’s how it works: every game starts out with a default score of 50/100, and certain things that happen during a game can add or deduct points to the score. The final score is put on a scale of x/10 for ease of use, and the system is designed so a game can gain as many points as it can lose, to balance out the scale. Certain games can get scores in the negatives, certain scores can go well above a 10/10. This is halfway intentional, as the idea is to communicate enjoyment, and the Fun Index is not scientific at all. Here are the things that add points....
- SP goes 9+/8+/7+/6+ IP: +30/+20/+15/+10
- 6 or less combined pitchers used: +20
- 7-8 combined pitchers used: +10
- Game lasts under 2 hours/under 2.5 hours: +20/+10
- Extra-innings: +10
- Final score difference is 1 run/2 runs/3 runs: +15/+10/+5
- 4 or more lead losses or changes: +20
- 2-3 lead losses or changes: +10
- Walk-off: +15
- Go-ahead run scores in 8th or later/7th or later: +10/+5
- 4 or more stolen base attempts: +15
- 12 or less combined strikeouts: +10
- Both SP get a decision: +5
...and here are the things that take points away:
- Opener: -30
- SP goes 2 IP or less/3 IP or less/4 IP or less: -20/-15/-10
- 14+ combined pitchers used: -20
- 10-13 combined pitchers used: -10
- Game lasts over 4 hours/over 3.5 hours: -15/-10
- Final score difference is 8+ runs/7-6 runs/5-4 runs: -15/-10/-5
- No lead loss or change: -10
- Go-ahead run scores in 2nd or earlier/3rd/4th: -15/-10/-5
- 25+ combined strikeouts: -20
- 20-24 combined strikeouts: -15
- No stolen base attempts: -10
- Neither SP gets a decision: -5
Now, I should also mention that the Index gives a +40 bonus for any game with a no-hitter through six innings (unless it’s a combined no-hitter; my index, my rules), and I won’t be rating the gimmicky seven-inning doubleheaders from last season, as they kind of mess with the scoring system. Hopefully the explanation was clear enough, now onto the scores!
The Fun Index Scores
Ouch. Now, this is clearly not very positive. Aside from a few outliers in the final few weeks of August and beginning of September, this chart is not pretty to look at. You see all those dots below the 5/10 line? That means a lot of ballgames with not a lot of positive stuff going on. In fact, there are six different games that rank in the negatives in the final two months, compared to just three combined throughout April-July, and there are big chunks of ballgames with not a single truly positive outlier. In fact, remember what I said at the beginning of the piece? That June and July both averaged above a 6/10? Well, August and Sept./Oct. both go the other way. August has a not nice average score of 4.20/10, and Sept./Oct. are even worse, with an abysmal score of 3.91/10. That’s really, really bad. Also, don’t worry, I know you saw that one massive outlier that goes below a -5/10, we’ll cover it soon. Speaking of outliers, here are they, starting with the negatives:
The “Yikes” Ballgames
Now, usually I’d go over all the game ranked 0/10 or lower, but for the sake of relative brevity, and since these three months were so bad, let’s just go over the games that rated negative. Grab some popcorn, this might take a while.
Here we have it, ladies and gentlemen: the least enjoyable Rockies game of 2021. This one manages to score a horrific -5.5/10 by virtue of not only bad things happening, but also because it scored zero positive points. How? Well, neither starter got into the fourth (with Austin Gomber pitching just one inning), there were 12 total pitchers used, and it was an 8-1 ballgame with 23 combined strikeouts, zero action on the bases, no lead changes, and the winning run scoring in the first inning. Nothing positive to say here, and if Ashton Goudeau hadn’t pitched three relief innings and had been instead replaced with three different pitchers, this game would’ve been a -6.5/10. Astonishing stuff, right? Let’s move on before I vomit.
This is another bad one, although not as horrendous. Not only did it feature an opener (-30), it also featured the Rockies leading 11-0 after four frames and 10 pitchers used, as well as nothing on the bases. The reason this game is “only” a -0.5/10 is that there weren’t a lot of Ks, so the ball was mostly in play. But it’s still pretty bad. Also, this game featured eight combined homers. Coors!
Another first of the month, another terrible baseball game. This is a 4:01 game with -get ready- FIFTEEN pitchers used. I’m pretty sure Kyle Freeland left early because he got hurt, so it ended up being an on-the-fly bullpen game for the Rox opposing a “proper” bullpen game from Texas. That is a truly terrible combination of traits, and not even a five-run, game-winning, 9th-inning rally can put this one in the positives. Yuck.
If I’m not mistaken, this is the second-worst game of the season according to the Fun Index, and it’s only saved from going into truly horrific territory by Germán Márquez throwing six shutout innings. The Phils bullpenned this one, and all you need to know about how it went was that the Rockies lead it 3-0 after two, and 11-0 going into the bottom of the 9th. It lasted over three and a half hours, too, and once again features no action on the bases. The Fun Index disapproves.
One trend I’ve been noticing is that games against the Giants rarely ended up being fun, and this was no exception. No starter pitches deep, 20 total strikeouts, station-to-station baseball, and a 7-2 final score. This is not only bad, but a boring kind of bad, which might be the worst type. Let’s continue.
This game features three different lead changes, movement on the bases, and not a ton of strikeouts. So how does it score so poorly? Because there were FOURTEEN pitchers used, it lasted almost four hours, both starters pitched two innings each, and the game was decided in the third inning. As you can see, poor starting pitching is really punished in the Fun Index, and it should be. After all, the starters are the main protagonists!
So those were the truly bad ones. That August 1st game in particular was incredible, wasn’t it?. Let’s wash this awfulness away with the best of the best for the final few months of the season.
The Positive Outliers
Now, this is more like it. Senza getting through seven strong innings, eight total pitchers used, a game-tying rally against Daniel Bard to rob Senza of a win, and a walk-off in the bottom of the ninth. This game also came extremely close (2:32) to triggering the +10 bonus for lasting under two and a half hours, which would’ve pushed it into a 12/10. Of note: this ballgame featured six double plays, which I’m pretty sure is the most I came across this season. I’m tempted to give it a bonus for that, but I’ll stick to the rules.
This game has Kyle Hendricks and Senza both pitching deep (Hendricks faced 30 batters, something you don’t see everyday) and only seven total pitchers used. You know what else it has? A late-inning rally that robs Senza of a win. Sounds familiar, right? Ugh. The Cubs tied it up against Jhoulys Chacín and Carlos Estévez in the eight before walking it off against Daniel Bard in the ninth inning. Poor Senza.
Another fun ballgame here, a matchup between Austin Gomber and old friend Jordan Lyles, who pitched into the seventh and got the win in a close, 4-3 Rangers win. This game deserves a mention for featuring five total stolen base attempts, by far the most of any August or September game, and one of the highest -if not the highest- totals of the Rockies’ season. Eight pitchers used, both starters get a decision: a fun, well-played game.
And here we have the best of the bunch. Once again, it’s an Antonio Senzatela start, this time one where he got a win! A very close 4-3 Rockies win that sees Senza pitch seven strong innings, his mound opponent Huascar Ynoa pitch into the sixth inning and just six total pitchers used. Also has five lead changes, a stolen base attempt, and even fun stuff (that didn’t count towards the score) such as an outfield assist. This is close to as engaging a ballgame as you can get in modern times, and it was two minutes short (2:31 total) of being a 13.5/10. Still, fantastic game.
So, there it is. Those were the outliers. One thing I found interesting as I was scoring games was that the Rockies played basically the same baseball in June/July as they did in August-onwards in terms of wins: they went 26-25 in June/July and 28-28 after that. The Fun Index scores are drastically different, however, which matches up well with what I remember about the season as a fan. Next week, we’ll finish this little series with a summary of the entire season, plus a bunch of small details I haven’t gone over yet. Here is the spreadsheet I use, If you want to check it out!
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What Are Teams Paying Per WAR in Free Agency? | FanGraphs
There’s a lot of interesting stuff here. I’m mostly struck by how cheap teams got going into 2021 using the pandemic as an excuse, though. Never change, MLB ownership groups.
Relievers Are As Good As They’ve Ever Been (Part 1) | Baseball Prospectus ($)
The gap in performance between starters and relievers has never been smaller, despite the best relievers being better than ever in terms of stuff. Many reasons for that, obviously, the main one being starters not being given the chance to fail.
Reid Cornelius named Rockies’ new bullpen coach | Denver Post
First of all, that’s a fantastic name. Second, Cornelius was with the Marlins before being hired by the Rockies as a bullpen coach. Does this mean anything? Maybe, maybe not.
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